Social PLM: How to pull a trigger?

Social PLM: How to pull a trigger?


In my yesterday blog, I shared some of my thoughts about “Facebook at Work” and potential impact on engineering and manufacturing software. It made me think again about all discussions and stories related to social software trend and social PLM.

Social was trending topic 3-4 years ago. Many new companies were founded back those days to realize the idea of “social enterprise”. No doubt it was heavily influenced by the large popularity of social networks and web. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and many other companies supported that trend. In enterprise domains, companies like Yammer and few others made a successful swing by introducing their products in business domain.

CAD vendors reacted on social trend by introducing “social platforms” or “social products”. It was mix of new development (Dassault 3DSwYm) , partnerships with other vendors (Microsoft SharePoint – PTC Windchill Social Link) or technology acquisitions (Autodesk – Qontext). In my view, none of these products and technologies changed a way people used to work in organization. Vendors blamed engineers for anti-social behavior. Customers blamed vendors for non-intuitive user behavior, missed features and bad integration with engineering content.

I put some of my notes about why I think social PLM trend lost the opportunity: Why Engineers Don’t Like Company Private Social Networks? and Why Social PLM 1.0 failed? I guess,despite all attempts, email remains one of the most visible collaboration tool for most of engineering and manufacturing companies.

At the same time, I believe, it is a time to rethink ideas of how to bring social into business eco-system. This is not an easy task. Some of key elements can be – structured enterprise communication, integration with existing messaging and communication system and thinking about social in connection to task management.

I had a short tweeterstorm with Jim Brown yesterday, following my blog about “Facebook At Work”. Jim kind of dismissed my points about usefulness of Facebook as a business social tool. Jim stands behind his old article – What I Learned: We are not Going to Design an Airplane on Facebook!

@olegshilovitsky: Maybe @jim_techclarity will rethink his 5 years old statement about airplanes design on Facebook 

@jim_techclarity: @olegshilovitsky No, not rethinking it. Re read the post and you will see my predictions are pretty spot on. This time, at least

@jim_techclarity: @olegshilovitsky There is a lot more low hanging fruit elsewhere. Easier to add social to PLM than PLM to social. Talk to you in 2019 😉


Most of the time, I’m in agreement with Jim. However, I disagree on his view on social software add-on role. We should not view “social” software as an addition to something else. This is a mistake that many enterprise software vendors did in the past few years. Social is a reflection of people behavior. I believe, this is a fundamental thing in what Facebook did – to emphasize the importance of “real person” identification in social network. All social networks before dismissed the importance of identification. Facebook made it as a core function and won. Of course, it doesn’t mean the same thing will work for social enterprise or PLM.

Facebook at Work is coming to capture attention of people during work time. Today, many places are banning Facebook as a destruction. I guess, Facebook wants to figure out how to offer social value for people during their work time. To me it means to crack “social behavior at work”.

What is my conclusion? The main point of “social” is not to become a nice addition to enterprise software to improve collaboration. Unfortunately, this is how most of enterprise software vendors (PLM included) understood it. Collaboration is important and existing PLM products need to focus how to improve user experience. But, social is not about that. Social is about “behavior” of people at work. Today, it is mostly around email and important business systems. Not much social. We don’t know how to pull the trigger of social software in a company. In order to do that, we need to think about “behavior”. We need to think how to make people addicted to business social function through the value it brings on everyday basis. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: Ian Ruotsala via photopin cc


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  • I do think I stand a little closer to Jim on this one but I think you bring up some good points.

    If you believe that most PLM implementations fail because of people not the technology then maybe a PLM solution focusing on people first might be the ticket. With a company focused on social they may be better aligned to have a solution which will have a high adoption rate. Having a system that your team easily adopts is gold.

    However, as Jim says I do think it would be hard for them to incorporate the capabilities required for PLM. I guess not so much hard as they can pretty much acquire some good technology however, I would see them steer towards more a structured chaos scenario than a more defined workflow.

    I have seen this slightly different direction recently while using Yammer which is an enterprise social networking service. It was these small misalignment philosophies which made the decision of not using Yammer. I only mention this experience because it really changed my thinking of social in any enterprise organization.

  • beyondplm

    Denis, thanks for sharing your thoughts. It helped me to think more about this topic.

    Here are couple of things – I don’t believe PLM systems fail because of people. We cannot change people (or at least, it is too hard in order not to make it company/software objective :)). At the same time, I don’t think PLM tech is too bad even today. What is important is match and mix between tech and people needs and capabilities. I can see many examples of successful combinations between what tech /products are providing today and customers expectations.

    For the last 3-5 years, I’ve seen many trials to copycat Facebook (and other social networks) experience to improve collaboration. It has some positive results, but didn’t change the fundamentals of how company is using enterprise software (PLM included).

    For the moment, my conclusion – there is no silver social bullet to make that change. The answer is probably in developing specific experience for people in engineering and manufacturing organizations that will perform better.

    Just my thoughts…
    Best, Oleg

  • I do think when people say that “people” were the cause of a PLM implementation failing what they are truly saying is that it failed because either the implementation or the technology did not align with the “people” and the way they work or want to work. I do think people and culture change and have seen a very silo’ed, non sharing environment change to a very open and social environment with roughly the same workforce. This is not currently that common but I would say that in the future we will see people behaviors change.

    Having a solution that focuses on people first which is one of the hardest things of implementing any enterprise system is an interesting thought. I still do think as Jim put it “It will be easier for PLM to incorporate social than a Social platform to include PLM.”

    The failing attempts of including a social aspect to these enterprise systems in my opinion was because as you mention it they just tried to “copycat” Facebook. The fact is even though we as a person are the same, how we interact at work is currently different than the way we interact in our personal lives. In our private life we are the sole one responsible for absolutely every thing we say or do but in our work life we are part of a bigger whole which I think adds to this complexity.

    I look forward to see how this evolves and your future thoughts on the subject.

  • beyondplm

    Thanks, Denis! Let me think more about your comments. I will come with something related to “how to put social into PLM”. It seems to me one of the key assumptions articulated by you and Jim. Best, Oleg

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